A brief history of Fairfield: One of Bedfordshire's newest towns

Fairfield in 2005. Once a mental asylum, the building has since been converted into flats

Fairfield in 2005. Once a mental asylum, the building has since been converted into flats - Credit: Robin Hall / Fairfield Park

It's no secret that we live in a place with a rich and dynamic history.

There are plenty of things that have put our corner of the world on the map. The UK's first roundabout in Letchworth - which is incidentally in the first garden city, Arlesey supposedly boasts Britain's longest high street and Stevenage was established as the first new town after the Second World War.

And thriving communities have popped up on these sites of historical significance, like Henlow Camp, which built up around RAF Henlow.

But how much do you know about the history behind Fairfield?

Originally called Fairfield Park, the village - which lies between Stotfold and Letchworth on the Beds/Herts border, was established in the early 21st century, with the majority of the foundations of the new settlement built around and re-purposing Fairfield Hospital.

Building started on the hospital, which was also known as Three Counties Asylum, in 1856, and it was operational for just shy of 140 years before closing its doors for the last time in 1999 in line with changes to national mental health provision.

Once home to a wealth of psychiatric patients, Fairfield Hospital - now a Grade II listed building - remains one of the few remaining complete Victorian asylums in Britain.

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In a 2018 interview with our sister paper the Royston Crow, ex-German POW Ernst-Wilhelm Peters, known as Peter - who sadly passed away in November at the age of 95 - shared tales of the hospital, where he worked for a time as a ward orderly.

Speaking fondly of a sister known for her strictness and discipline, he recounted: “She seemed to push me me all the time. I knew that she would not stand any sort of nonsense."

He then told of a day when they were bed-bathing a patient, and a minor mishap resulted in the thorough soaking of the sister.

After a brief - and slightly inappropriate - quip involving wet knickers, he added: "The incident caused a lot of laughter among patients and staff."

And the stories don't stop there. With tales of isolation through a mid-war tuberculosis outbreak, the murders of nurses Muriel Emery in 1943 and Veronica Ryan in 1958 - and even a two-headed calf born on site - it's safe to say that the history behind Fairfield would probably unearth enough to fill an entire newspaper!